In 2002 MGM released the war film Windtalkers, based on the true story of the Navajo Code Talkers, who used a code based on the Navajo language to send encoded transmissions that the Japanese couldn’t understand or decode as they had no direct knowledge of the Navajo language. The film follows two code talkers, Pvt. Ben Yahzee and Pvt. Charlie Whitehorse, and their “chaperones,” Sgt. Enders and Sgt. Henderson, who are ordered to protect these Navajo soldiers with their lives (as only a handful of people know how to use the code).
Though the Japanese tried many times, they were never able to break the code. In fact, due to evidence that the Japanese are brutally torturing any Navajo soldiers they can capture in order to get the code, Enders and Henderson are given particular orders that they are to kill their respective “windtalker” if they are in danger of being captured by the enemy. Enders is later forced to kill Whitehorse with a grenade when he sees the Japanese capturing him (Whitehorse himself gives a stiff nod when he sees Enders preparing the grenade, signalling that he knows what must be done and he is prepared to die).
The score for this film was created by the late James Horner, and the clip above is part interview and part scoring session, showing Horner at work in the recording studio. As beautiful as the music sounds, it’s a shame that the film wasn’t better received at the box office (I don’t think having Nicolas Cage as the main star helped much). This just reinforces the sad truth that a film can have a beautiful score but still be ruined by other factors, the biggest of which being that the titular “windtalkers” were relegated to secondary character status, despite being pivotal to the plot.
Having just finished the James Horner blogathon, I still had his music very much on my mind, and I was glad I could find another recording of the composer at work (there aren’t as many out there as you might think). I hope you enjoy watching and listening.
If you’d like to learn more about the film scores of James Horner, see here
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*poster image is the property of MGM